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I don't know about you but I read a lot of blogs and I see a lot of people showing themselves wearing lovely hand made clothes which quite frankly just do not fit.

What's the point? Why go to all that trouble and expense only to end up with a garment which is either too big, or worse far too small?
I bought some stretch denim Stretch Denim from MinervaCrafts as I wanted to make a skirt. Some stretch fabrics - as this one does, just stretch across the width, some stretch in all directions. You need to ensure that with a two way stretch fabric the stretch goes across the garment.

This is a pencil skirt which needs to be fitted close to the body,  so a fabric with some give in it is perfect. The design has a centre back pleat to make it easier to wear and a long exposed zip down the centre front.

I used the pattern from the Bernina Inspiration magazine which is available to purchase from Bernina UK
The sewing machine I used is a Bernina 350PE from Jaycotts.co.uk

The design in the book has an open metal tooth zip, but I couldn't find an open zip anywhere near to the length I wanted ( it is possible to shorten an open end zipper by removing teeth from the top of the zipper)
I altered the design to accommodate an exposed closed end zip instead.

You will have come across these patterns before, all the various designs and sizes are printed onto both sides of the paper and you need to trace the design you want to make onto tissue paper. Tracing Paper. The easiest way to do it is to identify the pieces and size you require and go over the outlines with a coloured pencil before you attempt to trace anything
You will find the measurements for each size on the pattern sheets. So take your measurements carefully and make a note of them. Identify the size closest to your actual measurements using the larger size if you fall between sizes. Don't forget if your hips and waist fall between two sizes you can merge the seam line between the two sizes and use both.
You will find it much easier to keep your tracing paper still if you use Pattern Weights

You will also need a ruler and a pencil.

This pattern does not have seam allowances so you need to add them. I love this handy and inexpensive gauge to measure my seam allowances which in this case are 5/8" You also need some Tailors Chalk to mark your cutting line.

Cut your pattern out at this stage and mark the pocket positions and darts with tailors tacks using Tacking thread

I wanted to add some pockets to the back of the skirt. There is a lovely product on the market which is a set of Pocket templates, marking and ironing set
This pack contains sets of templates to make  three sizes of pocket. One template is to draw around , the other is to use with your iron to enable you to press perfect corners

I am going to embroider a simple design on each of the pockets so I am not going to cut them out yet.
Instead draw around the template and mark the seam lines. Then measure and mark the centre of the pocket as shown.
This will ensure that your chosen design is dead centre.

There are many Embroidery stabilisers but for this project I wanted to use an iron on stabiliser to ensure that the stretch fabric remained taught during the embroidery process. The product of choice was Gunold iron on stabiliser

The embroidery I chose is by Brother which I got from their website. You will find that there are a lot of free embroidery designs available .
The machine I use is the Brother Innov-is 800e embroidery machine I have written a few blog posts about machine embroidery, but if you would like advice on choosing any machine then do contact Jaycotts on the contact details below.
Do not forget to flip the design for left and right pockets.

When you have finished embroidering your pockets pin and press and put them to one side  I love this pretty Magnetic pin cushion
And you need a supply of Various types of pins . Don't forget that they go blunt with use and need replacing every so often. When disposing of your old ones put them inside a tightly closed container.

 At this stage I tacked the skirt together to check the fit. It was far too large. In the end I pinned and tacked it three times until I was happy with the fit.
I do not understand people who omit this stage. I understand not making a toille for some garments, I usually only do them for a bodice I admit, but please always fit your garment to your body each and every time.  This is the only way you will produce something which is flattering to wear.
Once you have pinned and tacked as many times as it takes carefully remove the garment and mark your new seam lines.
My skirt was reduced in size by a total of eight inches! So can you imagine what it would have looked like on me? And by the way I measured myself carefully and cut out the correct size so please don't take the pattern measurements for granted!

There are limited pattern instructions in the magazine, and if you are reasonably competent at sewing you won't find them a problem.
I repositioned the pockets and darts as I had taken the skirt in so much and then I started working on the front.
The first thing I did was to insert a long exposed zip down the front and then I started work on the side pockets using pink Top stitch thread and a Topstitch needle to add a decorative touch along the pocket opening.

You will need to choose the correct size of needle for your fabric. Topstitch thread is very thick so you definately need one of these needles as they have a large eye.
Topstitch thread comes in lots of colours to blend with or contrast to your fabric.
Then I worked on the back, stitching the pockets in place at the base of the dart and forming a large pleat for wearing ease at the back.
Time to try it on again, so tack the sides and make any last minute adjustments to the fit before attaching the waistband.
I did one buttonhole and used a silver button to match my zip.

I chose not to use a contrasting top stitch to attach the pockets, instead I did two rows of stitching for strength.

The side pockets were also attached with two rows of stitching .

This is the exposed zip in closer detail.

I am delighted with my skirt. It fits me perfectly - as it should do!

The exposed metal zip makes it look a bit different to the rest, and it would be easy to insert into most patterns
This is a very slim fitted skirt, called a pencil skirt. They look very classy in a wool or crepe fabric which I would line.

Have a go at taking a pattern you have not used before and see how well you can get it to fit you. A skirt is a really good garment to start with.
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At this time of year there are dozens of T-shirts in the shops, all looking the same, all at various prices from the very cheap to quite ridiculous prices.
I am guilty of buying new ones most years, but wait, why should I keep spending money just to look the same as everybody else? Why should I put up with the store dictating to me what the neckline should be like, what length the sleeves should be, how long in the body it should be? And thats only the start of it, try buying a nicely patterned one..... You see the problem?

Many people ask me about sewing with stretch fabrics, and are daunted by it. But don't be, with a few simple rules you can be sewing your own "designer" tops quicker than you can go to the shops to buy one.
Your first attempt at sewing stretch fabrics might not turn out exactly as you would like, which is why I recommend you making a Toile or test garment first. For this find some cheap jersey fabric or an extra large men's t-shirt to practice on.

The pattern I am using is Tilly and The Buttons Agnes, but all the pattern houses have a suitable pattern. Look for one which says use stretch fabrics only. When choosing your fabric for your first actual garment think about using a patterned fabric, it will be more forgiving to wear on a close fitting garment like this, and if you do have wonky stitching here and there it will not be so obvious.
When you get your fabric home take a good look at it and see if it stretches just across the width or if it stretches down the length as well. This is important because when you come to cut your pattern out you will need to make sure that there is stretch going across the garment, so bear this in mind if you are using a fabric which just stretches one way.
When choosing your size read the instructions on the pattern envelope, take your current measurements and choose the recommended size. If you like a looser fit and the pattern says that it is very close fitting you may want to cut out a larger size.
Place your fabric flat, with none of it overhanging your cutting surface or the fabric will pull out of shape  and match the selvedges. Position each pattern piece with the grain line parallel to the edge unless instructed differently. Cut out with very sharp scissors.
Although the pattern instructions do not mention it, I think it prudent to stay stitch the neckline before doing anything else. A stay stitch is a row of stitches just inside the seam allowance to stop the fabric from stretching in that area
There are some changes you need to make to your sewing machine first though.

  • You need a stretch or ballpoint needle in your sewing machine, Jaycotts.co.uk sell them NEEDLES FOR STRETCH FABRICS Did you know that you really ought to use a new needle for every project? They blunt quicker than you think and cause all sorts of problems which may make you think that your sewing machine is broken.
  • I use a marvelous product to sew stretch fabrics wih , it is a stretch thread which enables  you to sew your new tops using just an ordinary straight stitch! It is Mettler Seraflock and I would not be without it, it makes sewing stretch fabrics so easy. See it here METTLER SERAFLOCK The alternative is using a stretch stitch on your sewing machine or if your machine does not have one use a fine zig zag stitch.
  • You need a small amount of seam tape Seam tape or a piece of very thin ribbon will do nicely. This is to stabilise the shoulder seams to prevent them from stretching
  • A twin needle for stretch fabrics Stretch twin needle This produces great looking hems.

After stay stitching the neckline to prevent it from stretching too much attach a small piece of stay tape or ribbon on the wrong side of the back shoulders, along the seam line.

The only difficult part on this pattern is the neckline. The neck band is about 10% smaller then the neckline itself so you need to stitch it in place whilst stretching the band but not the neckline itself. This is why I stay-stitched the neckline first!
Join the shoulder seams and neaten the seams, then join the band along the short edges forming a circle. Press in half wrong sides together.
This next bit is where you need patience because you need to pin the neckband on to the garment stretching it evenly. I suggest that you do as I did and baste it in place with a long machine stitch first to check that it is not too loose or too tight. The basting stitches can easily be removed so that you can alter the length of the neckband it's to make it sit correctly on your body. So try it on after basting and if you are happy sew it on properly and overlock the raw edges together. If not then it is worth removing it and trying again.

You will need to top stitch just under the band in order to stop the overlocked seam from curling up. You could use your twin needle here or use a decorative stitch on your sewing machine, this looks nice on a plain fabric.

Now comes the easy bit, pin and stitch the fronts to the back starting at the bottom, matching the underarm seam and ending up at the sleeve.
Finish the seam with your overlocker.  Dont have one? You a missing a real treat! They give professional finishes to the insides of all garments and do much more!  They come in a good price range to suit your budget, take a look on this link Overlockers Mine is a Brother 3034D and I absolutely love it. 

I must say that I do love the inside of any garment to look as good as the outside, but if you do not have an overlocker most sewing machines have an overlock foot which I use frequently, or you can just use a zig zag stitch if you prefer. I must admit that I have quite a collection of machine feet, which I do use, and I browse the selection on this link frequently Machine feet  trying to justify purchasing a new one! Not that I need a reason of course.

This is the top almost finished. If your neckband looks a little loose then quite often a blast of steam from your iron will shrink it back again.

The hems were first overlocked then finished with a double row of stitching using a twin needle. I use the seam guide on my machine always in order to ensure that my top stitching is even all the way round.

This is the finished top. I am pleased with it because it fits me well, it is not too tight or too loose. The length is where I chose it to be which makes me happy. Thats the wonderful thing about sewing, everything you make is individual and unique and more to the point fits your figure perfectly.
Once you have made your first top, think how you would like another one to look. Do you want it longer, shorter? More boxy or more fitted? Do you want to make the back logger than the front? Do you want long or short sleeves? This pattern has neck and sleeve variations, but for your first one I would start with the basic version.

I hope that after reading this you are not daunted by the thought of sewing with stretch fabrics,  true, you need to take more care and you may need a seam ripper handy but it really is worth practising and perfecting.
My T-shirt took less than two hours to make and cost next to nothing as I picked up a remnant from a local shop. Having the right equipment made making it even more enjoyable of course, but whatever equipment you have do have a go, it really is very nice indeed wearing something which nobody else has got.

Happy T-shirt sewing